Before I went vegan I used to drink milk kefir from time to time and I really liked it. For the ones of you, who never heard about it: Kefir is a fermented drink, that is based on cow, goat or sheep milk. It is the only milk drink, that is made with a kind of yeast and it originates in the Caucasus mountains. One hundred years ago it became quite popular, since a scientist liked the old age of people in the Caucasus mountains to their daily intake of fermented milk.
The taste of kefir resembles yogurt, even though it is a little bit sparkly and sometimes tastes alcoholic. Especially homemade kefir usually contains small amounts of alcohol.
I decided to drink kefir, since a doctor diagnosed me with candida, a condition that is usually connected to problems in the digestive system. I asked my friend, who is an osteopath, if there are any natural ways to solve the problem. She suggested probiotics, that can be normally found in miso and in other fermented foods and drinks.
I started with miso, but after one week I had enough. My kombucha experiments didn´t work out that well and Korean kimchi on a daily basis is just too much for me. I also tried to make vegan yogurt, which is a little complicated, if you use another vegan yogurt as a starter culture (you need living yogurt cultures as a starter). The soy-milk did not really transform and the milk went bad instead. Making vegan yogurt with a spoon on non-vegan yogurt works quite well, but I want to avoid using any dairy (even though I would only need it for the first yogurt).
So i thought, vegan kefir might be the way to go. I tried a health shop first and they told me, that it´s forbidden to sell “living” cultures like kefir. I searched on the internet and I found someone, who was selling kefir cultures for five euros just close to the place, where I work. We met on the same day and he gave me a jar with skimmed milk and a kefir culture inside.
At home I opened the jar and cleaned the culture with water. It had the size of a walnut and looked like cauliflower. I sterilized a jar with boiling water and poured half a liter of soy-milk (cheap kind with added sugar) inside. Since kefir produces a lot of gas, the jar should stay open. I decided, that a plastic bag with some small holes would be a good cover, since it protects the kefir from flies or other insects. The instructions on the internet suggested to stir the kefir after a couple of hours (for an extra creamy result). I did so and used Chinese chopsticks, since kefir should not touch any metal. I waited 24 hours and tried my vegan kefir. The result was super delicious! Slightly sour, refreshing and really authentic!
I repeated the process two more times (24 hours are more than enough) and always sterilized my glass. After the second time, another little kefir culture appeared (the culture grows permanently) . I put it in a separate jar and repeated the same process with oat milk. The result was even tastier (very smooth and creamy). Since I need to pay attention to my protein intake, I am going to stick with soy-milk or a soy-milk/oat-milk mix though…
Attention: Always check, if there are still some small kefir cultures in your jar! I forgot a raisin sized culture and took the jar with me during a road-trip. The jar almost exploded and the kefir tasted more like beer than like yogurt (since it kept fermenting)!
Some people suggest to use coconut milk. I am sure, that it works as well, but the result contains around 17 percent of fat (if you use it straight from the can). I would use coconut kefir most likely to make creamy sauces or frostings for my homemade cakes. As a drink, its too heavy for me though.
I consume my vegan kefir in the morning after waking up, even before I have coffee or tea. I have the impression, that it prepares my stomach for other food or drinks. If I enjoy it in the afternoon, I mix it with oats, fruits, dates and nuts. And: Vegan kefir makes an amazing substitute for buttermilk! Try cakes, pancakes or even vegan ice-cream with your homemade kefir!
I like the taste of vegan kefir and I feel very good. It helps my digestion and since I started drinking it, candida did not return. I am going to wait a couple of months though and check, if I feel any long-term effects. Even if not, vegan kefir is an inexpensive alternative to vegan yogurt and makes my oatmeal and my cakes even more delicious!
Gonna keep you posted!
I am Julia, vegan by heart, traveler and minimalist based in beautiful Portugal. I love simple but delicious food, ashtanga, skating, surfing and having a nice conversation over snacks and a glass of wine. I am blogging about vegan food, my minimalist journey, life hacks and my experiences as a traveler.